Gas Sheen on Crystal River Canal

Residents of the Woodland Estates community in Crystal River are noticing sheens of what they're calling gasoline layering on top of a nearby canal. 

Barry Bowman is used to seeing and smelling gasoline at the pumps, not on his waters.

Bowman and neighbors living in the Woodland Estates community of Crystal River have been complaining of seeing layers of what they’re calling gasoline floating and reoccurring on the top of a nearby canal.

“People want to be able to enjoy their property, and at times you can’t even sit out there it’s so thick,” Bowman said. "It’s got to be both an environmental hazard and a hazard to the wildlife that’s in that canal.”

Bowman, who lives off Northwest 20th Avenue, and his neighbor, Anne Rodriguez, who lives off of Northwest 17th Street, said they started seeing sheens of gasoline spreading across the canal that separates their properties about two weeks ago.

“You can sit out on your deck, and you can smell the gasoline fumes,” Bowman said. “It is potent.”

“It could be a bilge pump, it could be a buried oil tank that could have been forgotten about,” Rodriguez added. “We just want to make sure that there’s no hazards.”

Two manatees were seen on Monday swimming and breathing for air through the gas.

“They got their breath, but they also got a face full of gasoline,” Bowman said. “It just kind of broke my heart.”

Residents reached out to Crystal River City Hall for an answer, but even a city ranger couldn’t locate the source after searching up and down the canal.

“He keeps trying, but he just can’t find it,” Bowman said.

After getting similar reports from their National Response Center, pollution investigators with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) came out to the area on May 6, 7 and 12, according to USGC spokeswoman Ashley J. Johnson. 

Johnson said pollution responders did find a sheen from an unknown substance that appeared to be dissipating naturally, but also could not locate a source.

The USCG will keep in touch with city residents and officials so they can act with haste on more timely and detailed reports, and have a better chance of finding a culprit.

“We’re actively engaged with getting any further up-to-date detail in trying to the locate the source, and that will determine the next course of action,” Johnson said. “The more information we can get, the better our response.”

Complainants can report water pollution by calling the USCG’s National Response Center hotline at 800-424-8802, or by visiting its website, at www.nrc.uscg.mil.

Reports can also be made on the USGC’s app, which can be downloaded for free on mobile devices, Johnson said.

Bowman believes the many construction sites at the end of his street could have something to do with it.

“There’s way too much of it to be a leaking boat,” he said, adding the incoming tides seem to push in contaminants from near the canal's junction with The Crystal River.

Johnson said sheens on the water could be the result of many things, from algae to oil, and that more information — like times, locations and photos — can help investigators pinpoint the source.

“We still encourage people to send reports,” she said. “But just note, there's a wide range of reasons why there could be a sheen.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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(1) comment

CitrusCo Citizen

This is serious! In addition to the toxins killing wildlife, isn't anyone worried about fire? I've seen floating gas leak fires in marinas and it can be very dangerous.

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